It was obviously worrying. She seemed prepared to offer her 'instant' treatment, and then encourage her patient to consume their trigger food allergen, without any orthodox medicine or resuscitation equipment to hand. Her site confuses and conflates allergies and intolerances, and encourages self-diagnosis - 'give it a go at home' - of food sensitivity (including nuts and peanuts) using kinesiology.
I decided to ask either an allergist or allergy charity to try to intervene; it was clear the healer wasn't going to listen to my concerns, and seemed genuinely convinced she had found a cure for food allergy.
It wasn't easy. Several politely declined to get involved.
Allergy UK, though, raised their hand. Their nurse, Amena Warner, was happy to speak to the healer in order to voice concerns about her unvalidated methods of diagnosis and desensitisation. I introduced them via email.
I would like to be able to report a 'happy' ending to this, but a week or so on, Allergy UK's PR officer contacted me, and admitted that the healer remained unmoved by Team AUK's appeals. The charity has issued the following statement, which I'm happy to reproduce in full:
As a patient information charity, Allergy UK prides itself on providing access to factual and useful information in order to educate people about allergy and intolerances, how to manage the condition and the treatment methods involved.
We are aware that some individuals promote alternative methods of treating allergies and will claim to be able to use holistic approaches to cure the condition. Allergy UK will always try to educate these individuals about allergy and the science behind an allergic reaction so that they are aware of the dangers that they could be exposing a sufferer to, whilst using their alternative methods. Sometimes these people will take our advice and will thank us for pointing them in the right direction, but sometimes they are so passionate about what they do that they just do not see the reality of the dangers they are exposing people to.
Unfortunately on this occasion, they continue to promote their method of ‘healing’, despite us providing extensive clinical advice and highlighting the risks involved.
This is why awareness is so important. The more people that receive factual information about allergies, the less likely it is that sufferers will expose themselves to these kind of dangers as they will know about the real risks involved. We urge the public to share information from our website so that people can get the correct information and can make informed decisions about how they choose to manage their condition. If you have any questions about allergy or intolerances, please contact us on 01322 619898 or visit www.allergyuk.org.
Allergy UK's Allergy Awareness Week for 2015 starts today, the 20th, and runs until the 26th. The theme is Living in Fear (#livinginfear), which needs no further explanation. No doubt this week you'll be hearing a lot about the emotional and psychological difficulties of living under the threat of an anaphylactic reaction.
The business of fear can be lucrative, argues an article which defines happiness as 'freedom from fear'. People will pay for happiness - through the nose, quite often - and those living with the misery of allergy are vulnerable to both unscrupulous and deluded purveyors of treatments which promise that 'freedom from fear', essentially. The way to combat it, I'd like to believe, is through education and advocacy, and through supporting those - such as Allergy UK - who are doing it right. What other way is there? Campaigning or arguing for tighter regulation or legislation? Naming and shaming?
Next time something like this happens, I may respond differently. But for now, I don't have the answers. Does anyone?